It is possible that two notebooks by the famous British naturalist Charles Darwin, written in 1837 in 1837 and missing for years, were stolen from the Library of the University of Cambridge, curators said.
It is estimated that millions of dollars are worth of Darwin’s celebrated “Tree of Life” sketch, which the 19th-century scientist used to illustrate early ideas about evolution. Officials at the Cambridge University Library say the two notebooks have been missing since 2001 and are now thought to have been stolen.
“I’m sad that the location of these Darwin notebooks, including Darwin’s iconic ‘Tree of Life’ drawing, is currently unknown, but we are determined to do everything we can to discover what happened and not leave a rock in the process.” Jessica Gardner, university librarian and director of library services, made the statement.
The manuscripts known as the Transmutation Notebook were written by Darwin after returning from orbiting the world aboard the HMS Beagle. The ambitious survey mission, conducted between 1831 and 1836, helped to shape the scientist’s view of species classification, natural selection, and evolution.
Darwin’s fundamental work, “On the Origin of Species,” was published more than two decades after scribbling his iconic “Tree of Life” sketch in one of the missing notebooks.
The lost manuscripts were initially thought to have been housed in the university’s vast archive, which contains roughly 10 million books, maps and other objects. But an exhaustive search launched in early 2020 — according to Gardner, “the greatest search in the library’s history” —has failed to showcase the booklets and is now reported as theft.
According to officials at the University of Cambridge, a police investigation is underway and the notebooks have been added to Interpol’s database of stolen works of art.
The library also asks the public for help with information about lost notebooks.
“Someone may have knowledge or insight somewhere that can help bring these notebooks back to the right place at the heart of the UK’s cultural and scientific heritage,” Gardner said.
Information about missing laptops can be reported to the Cambridge University Library at [email protected], or anonymously to Cambridgeshire Police or Crimestoppers.